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Defiant Mugabe blasts West, tells Britain to 'hang'

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  • NEW: Mediation team says it would be "strange" if crisis can't be fixed diplomatically
  • Opposition denies reports that power-sharing deal imminent
  • State-run newspaper: Robert Mugabe will not tolerate criticism from African leaders
  • Mugabe handily won Zimbabwe's widely discredited presidential runoff last week
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CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's spokesman said Tuesday that talk of Western intervention in the country's politics smacks of colonialism and that the United Kingdom "can go and hang a thousand times."

Britain, which ruled then-Rhodesia for decades until 1980, is among several Western nations denouncing Mugabe's campaign tactics and declaring his runoff victory illegitimate.

Speaking to reporters at the two-day African Union summit in Egypt, spokesman George Charamba defended the Mugabe regime's resistance to outside influence, saying, "the way out is a way defined by the Zimbabwean people."

"For as long as there are some external interests that are seeking to express themselves within our own politics, then naturally we have that kind of resistance because for us it recalls a certain experience, ugly experience, we have gone through before: that of colonialism," he said. Video Watch bodyguards hold back Mugabe at summit »

Charamba bristled when asked about Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler.

"They can go and hang. They can go and hang a thousand times. They have no basis. They have no claim on Zimbabwean politics at all, and that is exactly the issue," Charamba said of Britain.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe's only leader since its independence from Britain, handily won last week's runoff against opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe was the only candidate after Tsvangirai dropped out of the race, citing widespread violence, intimidation and vote-rigging.

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Amid an international outcry, Western leaders pressed the African Union to join them in firmly denouncing the elections. A U.N. official described the summit as "a moment of truth."

Also, the Elders, a council of former world leaders led by former South African President Nelson Mandela, urged the AU to "clearly state" that Zimbabwe's presidential runoff was illegitimate.

"They occurred under the cloud of targeted political violence, precipitating the withdrawal of one of the two candidates," the Elders' statement said. "The African election observers left no doubt: The elections were neither free nor fair."

However, leaders meeting at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh have been slow to criticize Mugabe, and many media outlets are speculating that their reticence stems from a reluctance to throw stones in a glass house.

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald reported Tuesday that Mugabe would not stand for any condemnation from his African counterparts. Video Watch a British leader call Mugabe an "embarrassing guest" »

"When he wound up his campaign for the runoff, President Mugabe made it clear he was prepared to face any leader at the summit over the elections because some of them had worse election records," the Herald reported.

Indeed, Mugabe is not the only ruler to be accused of perpetuating violence or rigging elections in Africa. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi, Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir are among African leaders who have been the target of allegations by the international community in recent years.

In the case of Zimbabwe, international observers had hoped Mugabe and Tsvangirai could sort out their differences and form a unity government, akin to the compromise credited with quelling Kenya's political violence this year.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai have said they'd be willing to undertake such an endeavor, but both laid out strict conditions under which they would negotiate such a deal.

Business Day, a South African newspaper, reported Tuesday that President Thabo Mbeki's envoys had secured commitments from Tsvangirai and Mugabe on a power-sharing deal.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change promptly denied the report, which claimed that Tsvangirai and Mugabe would work to implement a new constitution and other reforms. The newspaper did not name its sources, but Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, told the paper that the envoys' visit to Harare was "a confidential briefing intended only for the president." Photo See photos from Zimbabwe »

An MDC statement refuted the report, saying there were "no talks or discussions" between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.

"And most importantly, there is no agreement in the offing," the statement said. "Nothing can be as malicious and as further from the truth."

Ratshitanga later said the Mbeki-led mediation team has been in contact with both parties, but he would not confirm the Business Day report. The team has consistently maintained that it will not discuss the process with the media, he said.

"We hope that the challenges will be resolved," he said. "It would indeed be strange if the issues couldn't be resolved by negotiation."

Although some African leaders, like Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have been outspoken in their condemnation of the Zimbabwean election, Mbeki has taken a softer stance.

Mbeki, whom the Southern African Development Community appointed to mediate the Zimbabwe dispute, has said that a more conciliatory stance will allow for the formation of a coalition government between Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and Tsvangirai's MDC.

Though Tsvangirai did not travel to Sharm el-Sheikh, the MDC sent a five-member delegation, led by MDC Vice President Thokozani Khupe.

"They are reporting very good progress. They have caucused with a lot of people," Tsvangirai said Tuesday.

However, the prospect of a unity government seemed dim. In its statement refuting the South African newspaper's report, the MDC said it tried to mend fences with Mugabe, but to no avail.

"Whilst the MDC pursued dialogue in a bid to establish a Government of National Healing before the 12th [of] June, 2008, the sham ... election on 27 June 2008 totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement," the statement said. See how the election unfolded »

Tsvangirai, who sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy amid the election violence, returned to his home in Harare on Tuesday, Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Rob Dekker said.

The Foreign Ministry remains in contact with Tsvangirai, and he can return if he deems it necessary, Dekker said.

Tsvangirai arrived at the embassy June 22, hours after announcing he was withdrawing from the presidential runoff.


As the U.S. and other nations worked to draft a resolution that they hope to present to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, a U.N. official this week said the situation in Zimbabwe imperils the entire region. Video Watch how the U.N. could sanction Zimbabwe »

"This is the single greatest challenge to regional stability in southern Africa, not only because of its terrible humanitarian and security consequences but also because of the dangerous political precedent it sets," U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said.

CNN's Nkepile Mabuse contributed to this report

All About ZimbabweRobert MugabeMorgan Tsvangirai

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